Kawasaki Daishi Station is located on the Keihin Kyuko Line in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa. The station takes its name from Kawasaki Daishi Temple, located just a short walk from the station.
Kawasaki Daishi is a temple dedicated to the famous Buddhist monk and scholar Kobo Daishi (774 A.D. – 835 A.D.). Kobo Daishi had learned the doctrines and rituals from the great Chinese master of Shingon Buddhism, Hui Kuo, after whose death he himself succeeded Hui Kuo and became the master. Kobo Daishi’s teachings hold that the “nature of Buddha” resides in all humans, and hence, we are all the same as Buddha and can attain the same enlightenment. Besides being a religious leader, Kobo Daishi was also a poet, educator, scientist, artist, and a calligrapher. He is revered as the “father of Japanese Buddhism” and “mother of Japanese culture”.
Kawasaki Daishi, as the grand head temple of the Chisan sect of Shingon Buddhism, is one of the three major temples in the Kanto area. It was built by Hirama Kanenori (a samurai who worshipped Kobo Daishi) and Sonken (a Buddhist priest) in 1128. Much of the original temple building was destroyed during the World War II bombings, and was later rebuilt. Dai Hondo, the Main Hall of the temple, was rebuilt in 1958, out of steel and concrete in the Heian architectural style. In 1964, the image of Kobo Daishi was placed here in a solemn ceremony. The other hall is the Prayer Hall, which was built in 1977. The Main Gate, Dai Sanmon, was also built in 1977 to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the founding of the temple. Images of Yakushi Nyorai (the Medicine Master Buddha) and the Four Heavenly Kings rest on top of the gate. The main attraction of the temple is Hakkaku Gojunoto, the Restoration Pagoda. This octagonal five-storied pagoda was built in 1984 on the 1,150th anniversary of Kobo Daishi’s death. The eight sides of the pagoda symbolize Shakamuni’s teaching of the Eight Right Ways.
The Goma Rite is held every day at Kawasaki Daishi in the Main Hall. Meaning ‘to burn’, this religious ceremony involves burning wood (symbolizing worldly desires, the source of suffering) in fire (symbolizing Buddha’s wisdom) on a raised platform in front of the image of Kobo Daishi. Prayers are also offered for those who have reached the age of Yaku Doshi – ages of 25 and 42 for men, ages of 19 and 33 in women, and the age of 60 for both men and women – considered to be the ages susceptible to misfortune.
Several events are held at Kawasaki Daishi. Every April, a Tea Ceremony is held for Kobo Daishi. The ceremony is performed by Sen Soshitsu, the head master of Urasenke School, in front of the image Kobo Daishi in the Main Hall. Besides this main one, several other tea ceremonies are also held throughout the day in various parts of the temple for visitors to enjoy. In May, Noh dance is offered on the temple grounds. In July, Wind-bells Bazaar is held for four days. At this bazaar wind-bells (or wind chimes) of various kinds from all over the country are sold, and on the last day, Bon dance is performed.
Nakamise Dori Street
Nakamise Dori is the 200 meter long street from Kawasaki Daishi Station to the Kawasaki Daishi Temple. It is lined on both sides by shops and stalls selling souvenirs, Daruma dolls, kuzo-mochi (arrowroot cake) and tontoko-ame (candy).
Daishi Park is located right next to Kawasaki Daishi Temple. It is a large park with a baseball field, tennis courts, a swimming pool, children’s play areas, and grassy fields for people to relax on or take walks. A special feature of Daishi Park is the very popular Shinshu-En – a Chinese garden built in 1987 to commemorate the friendship of Kawasaki with its Chinese sister city Shenyang. This Chinese style landscaped garden – said to be the largest in Japan – has a lake, ponds, a large variety of plants and trees, and some beautiful pagodas.
Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine
Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine is located a short distance from Kawasaki Daishi Temple. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to the war god Hachiman. Although the shrine is big and has a large number of visitors coming in everyday, it is more famous for the smaller shrine located on its grounds – the Kanayama Shrine. Kanayama Shrine is dedicated to the two Kanayama gods – Hikonokami and Himenokami, the gods of childbirth and healing of the lower abdomen. These gods are worshipped for successful marriages, safe child births, and protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
Kanayama Shrine is famous for its Kanamara Festival, held every year in April. On this day, usually in the first week of April, a fire ceremony is held at the shrine and parades taken out in the streets with mikoshi and lots of dancing. Festivities continue the whole day.